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Hyperion Records

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A View of Gotland, Sweden by Oskar Bergman (1879-1963)
Private Collection / © Whitford & Hughes, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67689
Recording details: April 2007
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Phil Rowlands
Release date: November 2008
Total duration: 15 minutes 45 seconds

'Sturfält plays all this music with powerful feeling and understanding, and great spontaneity—as at a live recital—and the recording is very real indeed. This is a disc well worth exploring' (Gramophone)

'Martin Sturfält is clearly a brilliant pianist with plenty of power. These performances are very well recorded and immediately make a good impression' (American Record Guide)

'Sturfält is a most convincing ambassador for Stenhammar's music, the Beethovenian Molto vivace second movement to the A flat Sonata demonstrating a superlative command of the instrument and a capacity to extract all the Scandinavian vehemence from the music. Sturfält's booklet notes are commendably clear' (International Record Review)

'Martin Sturfält's recording … is the most significant tribute to Stenhammar's absolute understanding of the piano's voice. Subtle, agile and beautifully shaded' (The Independent on Sunday)

Sensommarnätter 'Nights of Late Summer', Op 33
composer
published in 1914, but 'carried in the head for many years'; probably composed in the early 1900s

Poco presto  [2'26]
Presto agitato  [3'15]
Poco allegretto  [2'38]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
If the G minor Sonata is full of youthful exuberance, then Nights of Late Summer (‘Sensommarnätter’) Op 33 seems to inhabit a different world altogether. The descriptive title has often caused the work to be compared with other popular piano miniatures by Stenhammar’s contemporaries such as Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Emil Sjögren. But although the five movements that make up the work are relatively short, the emotional range they inhabit is anything but miniature, nor are their demands on the performer. As in the case of the G minor Sonata, this is hardly music for amateur pianists.

Stenhammar certainly shared a love for the Swedish landscape with his late nineteenth-century artist colleagues, and there is no doubt that the title at least partly refers to the nocturnal atmosphere at the time of the year when the short Swedish summer starts coming to an end, the nights become darker, and feelings of nostalgia and melancholy are evoked. But a psychological interpretation seems equally plausible: nature as a metaphor for the late summer of life. Stenhammar has often been described as a man who grew old early and while Nights of Late Summer was published in 1914 it had been, in his own words, ‘carried in the head for many years’. The most likely time of composition seems to be the early 1900s, a time of artistic crisis and lack of self-confidence when the composer was in his early thirties. Nights of Late Summer, more than any other of Stenhammar’s piano works, reflects the neurotic nature of the composer. The prevailing mood of the first movement is one of introspective gloom and wandering desolation. The restless and agitated second piece continues the C minor key of the first, and builds up to a passionate climax, only to disappear back into the shadows. The almost impressionistic suspended chords of the third piece, which cleverly manages to avoid the tonic of the main key of A flat major until the final bars, momentarily evoke a calmer, more comforting mindset only to be shattered by the eruptive, almost manic fourth movement. The carefully worked-out key scheme continues from the C sharp minor of the fourth piece to F sharp minor in the fifth piece, which initially is archaic and somewhat ironic in character before it loses itself in a chromatic labyrinth and finally dissolves. Nights of Late Summer and the Piano Concerto No 2 in D minor Op 23, completed in 1907, were to be Stenhammar’s last works for piano.

from notes by Martin Sturfält © 2008

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